Moor House to Upper Teesdale IPA
Location: In the North Pennines, east of the M6, with the A69 to its north and the A66 to its south.
Grid Reference: NY 732 336
Moor House to Upper Teesdale IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.
The key features of this IPA are:
Heaths with alpine and boreal vegetation (can occur at sea level);
High altitude wet seepage areas;
Blanket bogs (extensive areas of peatland);
Open grasslands on heavy metal rich substrates;
Mountain and upland screes on base rich rock;
Calcareous rocks with crack & fissure vegetation;
Nutrient-poor waters with Stonewort algae;
Ungrazed upland cliff ledges on calcareous rocks;
Juniper scrub on heaths and calcareous grasslands;
Purple moor-grass meadows;
Mountain hay meadows;
Hard water springs;
Semi-natural calcareous grasslands, sometimes with scrub;
Acidic alpine grassland;
Acid rocks with crack & fissure vegetation;
Acidic montane scree
The Moor House to Upper Teesdale area has characteristic sedimentary layers of limestone, sandstone and shale bedrocks formed 340 million years ago when it lay under shallow tropical seas. During the last Ice Age the area was covered in ice, which shaped the landscape we see today.
Arctic-alpine plants, such as the spring gentian, colonised the area when the ice melted and have survived here ever since. The area was designated principally for its range of internationally important habitats - lower lying hay meadows, rough grazing and juniper woods, as well as limestone grassland, blanket bogs and the summit heaths of the high fells. Nowhere else in Britain is there such a diversity of rare habitats in one location.
Plants you could see
Species-rich upland hay meadows are amongst the rarest grassland habitats in the country and this area contains some of the best meadows in the UK. Hay meadows do support some rare species, such as globeflower and species of lady's mantle, but their real importance lies in the diversity of species they contain. The very richest hay meadows contain over 30 species per square metre with up to 120 species per field. Typical plants to be found here include wood crane's-bill, great burnet, pignut, wood anemone, bugle, marsh hawk's-beard, orchids and yellow rattle.
Upland calcareous grasslands occur here over the outcrops of sugar limestone, one of just two such places in the UK. Nationally and locally rare plants are to be found on this habitat including the Teesdale violet, hoary rock-rose, spring gentian, marsh saxifrage, hair sedge and false sedge. Teesdale sandwort is found here and nowhere else in England.
Crevice communities occur on extensive limestone scars, especially along the Pennine escarpment and around the summits of hills. The most extensive local community is characterised by green spleenwort and brittle bladder-fern, together with less common species such as hoary whitlowgrass, alpine cinquefoil and holly-fern. The site is also of interest for its combination of southern and northern flora. Rarer southern species include bird’s-foot sedge and horseshoe vetch.
In some parts of the IPA expanses of blanket bog occur over the mantle of peat that covers extensive areas of plateau and gentle slopes. A typical tract of such bog contains heather, cross-leaved heath, hair's-tail cottongrass, bilberry, common cottongrass, cloudberry, deergrass, crowberry and bog asphodel, as well as many species of peat building sphagnum moss. Heather is also a feature of the high level fells which, when it flowers in August, turns the hills into a bright haze of purple.
Upper Teesdale is home to the largest juniper wood in England. Some of the trees growing here in the shadow of High Force are about 250 years old.